Like most families, we’ve always loved the park.
In our 20s, we lived a short walk from the main park in town. We used to walk round it every day even before we had children. When the boys came along, we liked nothing better than spending time with them there.
When we moved away from town, the park was still only a short drive away and we would while away many a happy hour there. We could spend four hours there without batting an eyelid – the swings, a picnic, back to the swings, feed the ducks, look at the animals, get an ice cream… Even two or three years ago it wouldn’t be unusual for us to go there several times a week during the school holidays. Sometimes with friends, sometimes with the grandparents, but usually just on our own.
But over the last year, the park has started to lose its shine. The boys are just too big for it. When we go there, they seem out of place. And if they’re not as happy, it doesn’t feel right for the rest of us. We don’t fit in there any more.
But my daughter still loves the park. Whatever time of year, whatever day of the week or time of day, you ask her what she wants to do and she will always want to go to that park.
On the last day of the Easter holidays, she was at a loose end. My younger son was at a friend’s house and Daddy was doing loads of DIY. We had nothing to do. I didn’t really want to go to the park, but I knew she would love it. So I offered to take her.
But it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t right with just the two of us.
The park was crazily crowded. There are only five swings for big kids and they were being hogged by unsupervised kids who weren’t getting off for ANYONE. And my daughter stood and waited politely while they all ignored her. Where were their parents? Many of them were younger than her. Why was I with my 8 year old, but 6 year olds were on the swings for hours without an adult nearby?
So we went to feed the ducks. I’d remembered the stale bread for once. Go, me!
But there were no ducks. Just a couple of greedy seagulls and lazy pigeons.
So I took her to do her absolute favourite thing in the park. Get an ice cream. Stocks of Smarties ice cream were very low, but she unearthed the last one. Thank the Lord.
She’d hoped to bump into her best friend, who lives close to the park and seems to be there all the time. But she wasn’t there.
So she went for a climb and a slide. It all felt so sad and wrong.
And just when she had her final slide, that slide that she wasn’t supposed to have, that slide after I’d told her to leave, A BIRD POOED ON MY HEAD.